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Doctors don’t just heal the sick. They also create jobs

Naomi Fuchs, right, CEO of Santa Rosa Community Health, shows Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Mike Thompson how the wildfire affected its Vista campus last October.
Naomi Fuchs, right, CEO of Santa Rosa Community Health, shows Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Mike Thompson how the wildfire affected its Vista campus last October. AP

During some of the worst wildfires in California’s history, medical professionals stepped up to provide aid to neighbors and strangers, alike.

The incredible response is a testament to our collective strength. Heroes include Scott Witt, who risked personal safety to help evacuate babies from Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital, and the staff at Kaiser Santa Rosa who helped evacuate patients attached to IVs as flames threatened the hospital.

 
Opinion

And a new report illustrates how physicians do more than diagnose, cure and heal. They provide millions of jobs and generate billions in tax revenues and economic activity.

According to the American Medical Association’s 2018 economic impact study, California’s 90,000 physicians generate $232 billion in direct and indirect economic activity, an average of $2.6 million each. U.S. physicians produced $2.3 trillion in economic activity, more than the total economic output for the entire country of Brazil.

California physicians generate $11.2 billion in state and local tax revenue – an average of $124,752 per physician – and support a total of 1.2 million jobs.

Despite the clear economic benefits, the U.S. is projected to have nearly 100,000 fewer physicians than it needs by 2030. And because training can take as long as a decade, a physician shortage needs to be addressed now.

The shortage is especially acute in California, and is expected to get exponentially worse as the population grows and physicians retire. We need 8,243 additional primary care physicians by 2030 – a 32 percent increase. Six of nine regions have a primary care provider shortage, and 23 of 58 counties fall below the minimum physician-to-population ratio.

For patients, the shortage means longer delays for appointments, trouble finding a specialist and having to travel long distances to receive care.

California fills nearly 100 percent of its residency slots each year. Since 70 percent of those who complete their graduate medical education in the state stay to practice medicine, adding 1,000 more residency positions would expand our physician workforce by 7,000 within 14 years.

The new report demonstrates why tackling our state’s physician shortage and supporting graduate medical education are so critical. More physicians will help keep our state’s health and economy strong.

Theodore M. Mazer is president of the California Medical Association. He can be contacted at tmazermd@aol.com.

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